Lazy Couponing – Introduction: How to Coupon for the Rest of Us


I hate couponing. No seriously, I really hate it. The fact that I extreme coupon has completely shocked most of my friends and family because I am the least likely person to ever do something like this. I am the most reluctant couponer that probably has ever existed, and I only coupon because it allows me to achieve a a different goal (donate a lot of food to food banks). Believe me, I fully understand the epic irony of someone who hates to coupon writing a guide on how to do it. That being said, because I dislike couponing as much as I do, I've learned to make it as absolutely painless as possible — something that I can hopefully share with you.

I do not coupon like other couponers out there. I refuse to spend hours clipping, sorting and organizing coupons (I'd rather have a dentist work on my teeth with no Novocaine). I do not try to get every deal out there or use every coupon that crosses my path. The truth is that I will only use a small percentage of the coupons that I end up gathering. At this moment I have absolutely no idea what coupons I have (and quite frankly, I like it that way). Despite this, I was able to eat well on $1 a day for 100 days.

If you like to organize and are willing to spend the time looking for every deal out there, this coupon guide is not for you. There are plenty of super couponers out there who will be glad to go into every minute detail to show you the ins and outs of how to do anything related to couponing. I am most definitely not the person to teach that. On the other hand, if you happen to live a pretty busy lifestyle and want to cut your shopping bills without spending a whole lot more time shopping than you already do, then this guide may be able to help you out a little bit.

Before We Even Start

Before we even get into the couponing, there are two basic premises that you will need to embrace if you are going to get anything out of this couponing guide. If for any reason you don't want to take either of these necessary steps, don't bother reading any further after making that decision. Unfortunately, everything else you learn will be made far less useful (and therefore a waste of your time — believe me, the last thing I want to do is waste your time).

First, realise that you are going to have to spend some upfront time to learn how to do this. Just like you would never expect to walk onto a tennis court for the first time and be a pro, there is a learning curve to how to coupon to maximize the deals you get. You will need to practice. You will make some mistakes. You will get better at it over time, because if I could, absolutely anyone can.

While couponing appears to be simple from the outside (and actually is once you learn the rules), the way that you currently think coupons work is probably completely wrong. That means you are going to have to spend some time learning and practicing new couponing rules that allow you to maximise your savings. The good news is that if you are willing to put in this upfront time, you should actually spend less time shopping than you do now, and cut the amount you spend by 50% or more (all while being able to purchase a lot more food).

Second, you need to be willing to shop in a way that is in your best interest. While this sounds like something that everyone would instantly say “yes, of course I want to do that,” the reality is that very few people do. Doing so will likely require a significant change to how you currently shop. If you are reading this, the chances are overwhelming that you are currently shopping the way grocery stores and manufacturers hope you will shop, not in your own best interest.

Manufacturers hope that on your way home from work, you have decided what you want to cook for dinner. Having decided what you are going to make, you will go to the store and buy the things that you need. If you shop like this, you are shopping exactly the way that the grocery stores want you to shop.

Maybe you are a little bit more organized and you know what you want to eat for the entire week and have made out a shopping list to get all the things that you are going to need. Even though this may appear better than deciding each night, you are still shopping the way that grocery stores and manufacturers want you to shop.

You may even take it a step further to where you look at the grocery store fliers each week and see what are the best deals and then plan your grocery shopping around those best deals to save money. While this is better than planning without knowing the weekly deals, this is still shopping in a way that grocery stores and manufacturers hope that you will shop.

The reason that grocery stores and manufacturers love it when you shop like the above mentioned ways is that you are basing your purchasing decision on what you are going to eat. This inevitably means that you will be buying things that are at full retail price. Even when you look at the store advertisements and base your meals around what is on sale, there will still be ingredients that you will need to purchase to make the meals that aren't at their best price. If you plan your meals by what you want to have, you have already lost the grocery shopping game and pay far more than you should.

The way that the grocery stores and manufacturers don't want you to shop is to only purchase the very best deals available each week and nothing else. The way to accomplish this is to plan your meals from what you already have in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards (your stockpile of food). When you begin to plan all your meals on what you already have on hand, then there is no longer any need to purchase anything at full price. In fact, the only time you need to purchase any item is when it is at the very best price you can get it.

This simple change in the way that you shop will instantly save you 50% or more. In fact, this change is far more powerful than couponing, although the addition of couponing will further reduce the amount you spend on food. If, however, this is a change that you are not willing to make, you are probably better off not even bothering to read any further. While coupons can still save you money without this change, the savings will be minimal and you will quickly grow tired of using them due to the seeming small amount that they help you save (Don't believe me? Then why aren't you couponing right now?) Once you make this fundamental grocery shopping change, you take the control away from the store on how much you spend each week and give that power to yourself.

How easy it will be to get to this stage will be heavily dependant on what you currently have in your food stockpile. There is a high probability that you will not be able to make the change 100% from day one, but you should begin to move in that direction from the start. It probably also means that you are going to have to do a bit of pantry organizing since you will begin to stockpile non perishable items when they are a good deal.

If you are willing to make this change in the way that you plan your meals and spend a little time upfront to learn and practice, you will have put in place the two necessary keys to much greater savings while grocery shopping. Again, it probably will be impossible to implement this strategy instantaneously (it can be done, but I can tell you from personal experience that would be pretty painful), but you should begin shooting for this goal over a period of a few months.

What You Will Need

While it may be possible to succeed while not having some of the following, to make it as easy and convenient as possible, these are the tools that you will need:

1. A computer & printer
2. Sunday newspaper coupon inserts
3. $20 for practice money

If you have any questions along the way, feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer them. If not, you can move onto The First Month

Other parts to the Lazy Couponing Guide:

Collecting Sunday Newspaper Inserts
Manufacturer Coupons
Store Coupons
Instant Discounts
Catalina Coupons
Product Rebates
Electronic Coupons
Stacking Coupons
Double Coupons
Picking A Grocery Store
Matching Coupons To Sales
Finding Coupons For Your Grocery List

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21 Responses to Lazy Couponing – Introduction: How to Coupon for the Rest of Us

  1. Deborah says:

    Item 1 check
    Item 2 check
    Item 3 check
    I am ready to go!
    Let the learning begin.

  2. Joseph says:

    I stumbled across your blog about eating on less than $1 a day last week and once I explained it to my wife, she seemed very. very skeptical. This past weekend with just the inserts, previous weeks inserts purchased off ebay for $1.00 and our home computer, we went out shopping. We knocked our weekly shopping bill by at least 50%, saving quite a bit of money and we got some free stuff. We only have two stores here in town that double coupons and thankfully we have a CVS because we never realized the amount of stuff you could get from them. Thanks for the great and helpful information and I look forward to visiting this website for many years.

  3. purplegirl247 says:

    That is exactly how I have come to shop (buy only things when they are on sale and choose what to eat each night based on what’s in the house) and a lot of my friends think I’m insane. But after my husband’s hours were severely cut back last year, it’s what we had to do, and got used to. We still eat delicious food; we just sort through what delicious food we’ve already bought, instead of having to run to the store 3x a week. It’s so great that you laid it out in such an easy-to-understand way! I’ll be forwarding this entry for sure…

  4. Deedee says:

    I’m with you so far! Thank you for making it so easy to understand. This coupon stuff has been a mystery to me but I think I’m going to “get it” this time.

  5. Stephanie says:

    That’s me. I hate the whole process, but I WANT to do it, so I’ve been paying close attention to you for awhile. I haven’t started yet (moving soon, have no space here… two roomies) but hope to do it as casually and effectively as you have managed. Thanks for writing all this.

  6. Brenda says:

    Thank you Jeffery,
    Looking forward to learning more. Other readers, If you have little space for storage, invest in a couple of under the bed plastic boxes,can goods and other things store really well there. Always seal stuff in plastic or zip loc bags or glass ware to prevent bugs and other pests bothering your storage. Noodles and rice and other grains are best stored in other than just their own packaging if long term. And Date Everything, rotate, donate, don’t let it go to waste. There are really hungry people out there without jobs and children who are missing meals. Again, Jeffery, thank you for all your doing. Your my kind of hero. And I am a grandmother, I’ve met a lot of hard working heroic people, and your one of them.I like your style. You keep putting in as much as you get out of life.

  7. Ericka says:

    Jeffery…..

    how many sunday inserts do I need? and do you happen to have any IGA stores near you? in my area, all we have is an IGA, Walmart, and save alot. we have cvs and dollar general too. if you know of anywhere i can find good deals for IGA..id be appricative…

    thanks..

  8. Denise says:

    Jeffery,

    Today I bought two packages of Nestle Quik to satisfy my husbands addiction. I also bought 6 packages of Bic pens at Ralph’s. I not only received a $1.00 off coupon for the next box of Quick but a $2.00 catalina. I turned around and bought another box of Quik and received another @1 off coupon but no catalina. There was nothing on the catlina to indicate what triggered it. Is there someplace where all of the catalina’s are listed?

  9. Kristin says:

    I buy one newspaper per person, but if you’re just starting out, try asking people if they’ll give you their inserts. McDonalds, cafes, and donut shops all see lots of newspapers on Sunday and they might let you poach their leftovers. 🙂

    http://www.becentsable.net has grocery matchups for all kinds of stores.

  10. jeffrey says:

    @Ericka

    Will address how many inserts in a couple of days.

    @Denise

    I’m not aware of a central database for Catalinas. If your store is good (unfortunately, many aren’t), they will have them marked by the price of the goods. My bet (just a guess)is that it was triggered by buying 2 of them – catalinas are usually triggered when you buy multiples of a product.

  11. roxie says:

    The only grocery store in my town is an IGA and there is no indication of any sorts of what would trigger a catlina coupon. I almost never get one for anything.

  12. Brittany says:

    @ Ericka

    I recently found out that Save-A-Lot has online printable coupons. I printed some off recently for 0.30/1 brown sugar and 0.50/1 lb butter (I bake a lot and Save-A-Lot has the cheapest and good quality baking goods!) You have to create a free account on their site, but that’s all!

  13. Sam says:

    “This simple change in the way that you shop will instantly save you 50% or more.”

    I can’t agree more. I had some VERY good role models growing up and have always shopped sales and stockpiled. My husband doesn’t understand it, at times it drives him nuts (“WHY did you buy 150 cans of tomato soup?”), but when the fit hits the shan financially and my grocery budget gets repurposed for several months to pay for a car repair, he gets it. When the cashier says, as trained, “you saved $X today” and then realizes and comments that X is more than you spent, he looks at me proudly. And all of that before taking up couponing.

    I’m new at couponing, the $1 a day challenge inspired me, and I’ve grabbed the Sunday paper for 2 weeks now. Everybody’s got to start somewhere.

  14. Sam says:

    Here is a good spot to look for free fruit. They add new ones all the time. http://neighborhoodfruit.com/how#fruitfillment

  15. Rachel says:

    We got these great Procter and Gamble coupons in the Sunday paper today. So, I made an attempt to make some purchases today at Walgreens. I really screwed it all up! Two of the Register Reward coupons didn’t print up, so I went to the other Walgreens on my way back home to find out why. Well, I didn’t buy BOTH of the items for the one (I thought it was either/or) and there was no reason why for the other. So, I returned them both and got back MORE than I had spent on them, because I had originally used coupons. Well, now I just feel like I cheated the system, which was never my intent! Ugh…

  16. sheila says:

    I am desparatly trying to learn how to do this. I am a disabled single mother of 4 with no child support, and our food stamps don’t cover things all the time, so we are usually one of the families you see in the food bank line (in fact, it’s on my list in the morning after I drop the kids off at school!). So for those of you doing this, THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’m not very good at doing this yet but I HAVE to learn so we can strech our food stamp dollar. I will take ANY suggestions you have! Also I am missing the inserts to 10/3 … if anyone knows how to get some I’d appriciate it.

    Bless you all! Feel free to eamil me with any suggestions or tips.

  17. RayAnne says:

    I absolutely love coupons. I started about 6 months ago and coupons + great deals at your local grocery store = some super great savings. Especially for those of us that are on a tight budget these days. Not only great savings on food but also your everyday needs, such as toothpaste, dishwashing liquid, deodarants, body wash, and so on. In the last couple of days I have bought more than $120 worth of PG items and we all know PG are pretty pricy little items and I spent a good $30 out of pocket! I’ve come to believe that coupons are worth a little bit of time for max savings.

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  19. Margo Johnston says:

    I am so tired of giving my money to the big stores. what food and other supplies cost is INSANE!! I want to keep it in my pocket and not theirs!!!! So Gonna give it a try if for anything the challenge!

  20. mary says:

    What is a store card?

  21. jeffrey says:

    Many grocery stores have a store card that you swipe at the register that gives you discounts.